Why is Flight Safety important?

Some examples: January 1986 loss of Space Shuttle Challenger and its crew during launch – O-ring seal failure at lift-off in the right solid rocket booster. June 1996 launch failure of Ariane 501 carrying Cluster spacecraft – unhandled software exception. February 2003 loss of Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew - insulation foam struck the left wing leading to the Shuttle’s disintegration during re-entry. October 2005 Rockot launch failure carrying Cryosat - failure of the booster. April 2008 Soyuz TMA-11 near disaster during re-entry – pyro-bolt malfunction caused the Soyuz landing module carrying a crew of three astronauts to tumble out of control during re-entry. Smoke filled the cabins and emergency G-forces were suffered by the crew. However, this time all survived.

Accidents do not just happen and technical solutions are not always the single answer to engineering problems. While design features are most of the time responsible for triggering the failure event, they are almost never the single root cause of accidents. Factors such as a poor safety culture, deficient safety organisation, flawed safety requirements, budget and time pressures all need to be taken into account when analysing accidents.

The hidden costs of accidents and failures are far more than just a financial loss; but also endangerment of human lives, injury or occupational illness, damage to public or private property, pollution of the environment, atmosphere or outer space and so on.

Last update: 22 September 2009

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